WSINT: Integrate, operate, graduate

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighting jet pilot signals after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada Dec. 4, 2018. The F-16 is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighting jet pilot signals after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada Dec. 4, 2018. The F-16 is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – For more than two decades, the U.S. Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS) has produced graduate-level weapons instructors who are not only experts in their specific platform, but experts in integrating that platform across all domains.

As a graduate-level course, students spend more than 400 academic hours in the world’s most advanced tactics and weapons employment training before they can call themselves “Graduates”.

However, before students complete the course and celebrate on patch night, there is one thing standing in their way – the Weapons School Integration (WSINT) phase.

“The WSINT phase is a series of exercises designed to give a capstone experience to our students to allow them to integrate across different mission designation series,” said Capt. Sean Batson, U.S. Air Force Weapons School chief of academics.

WSINT demonstrates the strategic advantage of multi-domain command and control while producing leaders capable of delivering success in a spectrum ranging from small tactical teams to strategic transformational change.

“Our students undertake a series of different exercise operations where they will tackle some of the hardest problem sets that we expect them to be prepared to be able to plan and execute once they graduate the Weapons School and put that patch on,” said Batson.

The capstone exercise follows lines of operations designed to support U.S. Air Force doctrinal missions from defensive and offensive counter-air, dynamic targeting, counter-land, air mobility support, special operations, strategic attack and space and cyber operations.

Although the 19 weapons squadrons that make up the weapons school spend a majority of the six-month course focusing on their specific platform, the different WSINT operations is where the students are put to the test on how to integrate and operate amongst each other.

“It’s really awesome to see this capstone event where we’re starting to bring everyone together,” said Capt. Andrew Hebert, 8th Weapons Squadron E-3 Sentry Airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft air battle manager and Weapons School student. “The level of the intensity of the missions we’re going to execute are really world class and you’re not going to see it anywhere else besides the weapons school.”

WSINT’s significance as a capstone event is demonstrated once the students graduate and return to their units with the additional experience.

“WSINT as a whole is important because it allows us weapons officers that last chance to really get it wrong and work out all the kinks here with our instructors before we’re walking out the door when we’re somewhere across the world where we have to do a mission that involves real lives,” said Hebert. “WSINT allows for us to get those lessons learned now, so we’re able to not only blow away the expectations, but come home with a strong win.”

With the Weapons School graduating more than 200 weapons instructors each year from various platforms across all domains, the students have a unique opportunity to network with each other throughout the schoolhouse.

“If WSINT wasn’t here, you’d see an Air Force where there are weapons officers who didn’t know how to integrate and communicate with each other,” said Hebert. “WSINT gives us that ability in the weapons school learning environment to find out what the person next to me does best and then figure out how that layers with my own abilities to ensure we are both force multiplying out in the combat Air Force.”

Upon completion of the four-week series of combat missions, new weapons officers return to the field to serve as unit weapons and tactics officers, providing advanced instruction and battlefield guidance to their commanders, operations officers and personnel.

“For students coming to the weapons school, it’s going to be the toughest thing you’ve ever done in your life,” said Hebert. “That being said, it’s definitely rewarding being able to see what the end-product is. Come to the weapons school with an open mind in regards to how you can integrate your specific platform with the rest of the weapons school. The earlier you can figure that out, the more successful you’ll be through the middle portion of the course and definitely through WSINT.”

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